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Greeks fell trees for warmth amid economic chill
by Staff Writers
Athens (AFP) Jan 24, 2012

Rising oil prices and chilly economic times are prompting increasing numbers of Greeks to chop down trees for winter warmth, a group of forest engineers warned Tuesday.

Nikos Bokaris, a spokesman for the Panhellenic Union of Forest Engineers, said the debt-wracked nation's forest ecosystems were not yet under threat, but urged the government to act quickly to prevent broader damage.

"You have to remember what happened in Albania," Bokaris said, describing how that country's population felled trees en masse after the collapse of communism. "Even the trees lining the roads were chopped down."

Greek foresters filed 1,500 criminal complaints last year, twice as many as in 2010. About 70 percent of Greece's forests are public, with most of the rest belonging to various religious institutions.

Bokaris attributed the rise to a sharp drop in national funding for forest management, coupled with a near-doubling of oil prices in 2011.

He said forest funds had been slashed from 20 million euros ($26 million) in recent years to 10 million euros from now on.

The cuts are part of Greece's austerity measures agreed with international creditors in a bid to win vital debt bailouts.

The Greek arm of environmental group WWF has also expressed concerns. Its forests expert Konstantinos Liarikos said both individual and organised group activity were impacting the forests.

"Wood poaching," as some in Greece call it, is not a new phenomenon in a country where even modern homes in Athens still have fireplaces. Domestically provided firewood is often not enough, with the shortfall made up by Balkan lumber.

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Illegal logging jumps in Greece as fuel prices rise: experts
Athens (AFP) Jan 24, 2012 - Greeks are increasing turning to illegal cutting of trees for firewood as the price of fuel oil has nearly doubled and austerity cuts have ended subsidies, forest management experts warned Tuesday.

"Forest ecosystems are not yet threatened, but the state needs to act quickly" if it wants to avoid large scale illegal logging like happened in neighbouring Albania after the collapse of communism, the head of the association of Greek forestry management experts Nikos Bokaris told AFP.

Greek forest rangers launched 1,500 illegal logging cases in 2011, double the amount in 2011.

The Greek branch of the environmental group WWF also expressed concern, with its forestry expert Konstantinos Liarikos saying in some region the illegal cutting was organised by networks that sold on the wood.

Bokaris put the blame on the near doubling of the price of fuel oil last year, as well as forestry subsidies getting the axe as part of the government's efforts to reduce its deficit under its EU-IMF bailout.

Subsidies to support the management of public forests, which account for 70 percent of the country's forests, were cut in half last year to 10 million euros, according to Bokaris.


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Team finds natural reasons behind nitrogen-rich forests
Bozeman, MT (SPX) Jan 20, 2012
Many tropical forests are extremely rich in nitrogen even when there are no farms or industries nearby, says Montana State University researcher Jack Brookshire. It's because of biological interactions that occur naturally in the forests, Brookshire and four colleagues said in a paper they published Jan. 15 in the online version of the journal Nature Geoscience. Disputing some long-h ... read more

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